Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County 14SL-CC00647-01
Honorable John D. Warner, Jr.
M. GAERTNER, JR, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Gales (Movant) appeals from the motion court's judgment
denying his Rule 24.03 5 motion without an evidentiary hearing.
Movant claims the motion court erred in denying his request
for post-conviction relief because plea counsel was
ineffective for unreasonably pressuring him to plead guilty.
and Procedural Background
State charged Movant as a prior and persistent offender with
one count each of first-degree assault, first-degree robbery,
and first-degree burglary, and three counts of armed criminal
action. The indictment alleged that on or about March 22,
2012, Movant and Montez Thomas (Thomas) knowingly and
unlawfully entered the home of Richmond Lingard (Victim),
forcibly stole a handgun from Victim, and caused Victim
serious physical injury by shooting him, all with the use,
assistance, and aid of a deadly weapon, Movant pleaded guilty
pursuant to an agreement with the State.
guilty-plea hearing, the State asserted it would prove the
following. Victim, an off-duty sergeant with the St. Louis
Metropolitan Police Department, was home alone in the
basement of his house when he heard someone upstairs. Victim
was walking up the stairwell to investigate when he saw
Movant come around the corner approximately six feet from
him, whereupon Movant shot Victim with Victim's
police-issued 9mm Beretta handgun that Movant had stolen.
Victim attempted to exit his house but saw Thomas, also
holding a gun, standing outside blocking Victim's escape
and Victim's neighbor both identified Movant in a
line-up. In a statement to police, Movant admitted to the
burglary and robbery, and he admitted to shooting
Victim's weapon in Victim's house. Following the
State's recitation of its case, Movant agreed these facts
were true. Movant attested that no one had made any threats,
promises, or coerced him in any way to induce him to plead
guilty. The trial court accepted Movant's guilty pleas on
all six charges.
sentencing hearing, the court sentenced Movant, in accordance
with the plea agreement, to concurrent sentences of life
imprisonment in the Missouri Department of Corrections for
the counts of assault, robbery, and burglary, consecutive to
concurrent sentences often years' imprisonment for the
three counts of armed criminal action, for a total term of
life plus ten years. The court again asked Movant:
"Other than the plea bargain, did any of your attorneys
communicate any threats or promises, or did they coerce you
in any other way to induce you to enter your plea of
guilty?" Movant responded in the negative.
timely filed a pro se motion for post-conviction
relief pursuant to Rule 24.035. Through appointed counsel, he
filed an untimely amended motion in which he argued his
guilty plea was not knowing or voluntary because plea counsel
unreasonably pressured him to plead guilty by inducing fear
of a longer sentence were he not to plead guilty. Movant
asserted that were it not for this fear and coercion, he
would not have pleaded guilty but would have proceeded to
trial. He requested an evidentiary hearing. The motion court
denied Movant's amended Rule 24.035 motion without an
evidentiary hearing and without addressing the timeliness of
the amended motion. On appeal, this Court reversed the motion
court's judgment and remanded the cause for an
abandonment inquiry into the untimeliness of Movant's
remand, the motion court found that post-conviction counsel
had effectively abandoned Movant and that Movant played no
role in the late filing of the amended motion. Accordingly,
the motion court permitted the late filing of the amended
motion. The motion court then denied Movant's amended
Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding
that Movant's allegations were clearly refuted by the
record. Moreover, the motion court noted that if Movant had
gone to trial or had pleaded guilty under a blind plea, the
trial court would "very likely" have imposed a
longer sentence in light of Movant's criminal history.
This appeal follows.
appeal, Movant claims the motion court clearly erred in
denying his Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing
because the record did not refute his allegation that his
plea counsel was ineffective for unreasonably pressuring him
to plead guilty. Movant further asserts that but for this
undue pressure, he would not have pleaded guilty but would
have proceeded to trial. Movant's claim is without merit.
review of the denial of a Rule 24.035 motion is "limited
to a determination of whether the findings and conclusions of
the trial court are clearly erroneous." Rule 24.035(k);
Weeks v. State. 140 S.W.3d 39, 44 (Mo. banc 2004).
This Court will find error only if, after review of the
entire record, we have a definite and firm belief that a
mistake has been made. Weeks, 140 S.W.3d at 44. On
review, the motion court's findings and conclusions are
presumptively correct. Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d
833, 835 (Mo. banc 1991). A motion court is only required to
grant an evidentiary hearing if: (1) the movant pleads facts
that, if true, would warrant relief; (2) the facts alleged